Some points in history provide a step change – when a big event causes a monumental shift in thinking, action and public perception. World War II saw women come out of the home and work in factories and on farms – and they never really went back to the same extent.

When Covid-19 struck on a pandemic level the world also changed – many people went home and worked, pollution dropped over night and air travel contracted hugely and technology was taken up en masse. I wonder if this time will be one of those step-changes. Will we all go back to the office? Will tourism ever return on such a scale? Things will change.

With the world turning into a place where the international tourism tap is choked off for the next year or 18 months until a Covid-19 vaccine is developed and spread worldwide, the agriculture and horticulture industries will once more be the powerhouse of the New Zealand economy.

While it’s easy to crow about how essential we are, it’s much more gracious and empathetic to just get on with doing the job, having sympathy for those who have lost jobs and businesses– and thinking about how best to attract and retain many of the out-of-work hospo and tourism workers.

DairyNZ’s Jane Muir says many highly capable New Zealanders will be needing and wanting jobs and dairy has opportunities for them. The ‘Good Boss’ programme helps farmers tell the dairy story to better attract people and will help employers keep them to create better farming businesses. (P115).

The tap of potential migrant workers might also be turned off if the borders are shut to any threat of Covid-19 infection. It’s heartening to see how many career-changers and overseas imports are rising to the top of the industry through the Dairy Industry Awards.

Many of today’s winning dairy trainees, dairy managers and share farmers have come from other industries and other countries and are making their way through the progression pathway that the NZ dairy industry is famous for.

City-born, career-changers and those from other cultures change the dynamic onfarm – they question the status quo, challenge practices, inject new skills and often introduce new technologies. And importantly, they are enthusiastic about the industry and the opportunities it offers and maybe more open to the changes that are happening in the sector.

As the world changes and demands a cleaner environment, more care and attention to water and nutrient use, mitigations to greenhouse gases and more action reducing climate change maybe the fresh and international thinking of our more multinational workforce will help us make the changes needed.

Congratulations to all the winners in the Dairy Industry Awards – if you didn’t get to publicly celebrate your win, this Cream of the Crop issue highlights your skills and talents to every dairy farmer in the country.

Stick to the rules to keep everyone safe from the virus.

Jackie Harrigan